2008-06-06 / Columnists


Mark your calendars for this weekend's Rockaway Literary Festival, which will be held at Fort Tilden on June 7 and 8. The complete schedule of events for this exciting festival can be found elsewhere in the paper, but both days promise delights galore. Rock pioneer DJ Pete Fornatale will talk about his new book that details the partnership of Simon And Garfunkel. Many local writers will talk about their work as well, and there will even be a panel made up of local journalists speaking about community journalism. There is also a movie festival brought to you by local filmmakers. All in all, it is not a weekend to be away from Rockaway.

Here are some frightening statistics in light of the recent shooting spree in Far Rockaway. More than 4,000 guns were confiscated in New York City last year. That probably means that there are something like 40,000 guns on our streets. Two hundred and seventy seven of those guns were taken from suspects younger than 17- years-of-age. More than 800 were taken from suspects between the ages of 18 and 21. An additional 524 were taken from suspects between the ages of 22 and 24. An additional 780 were taken from suspects between the ages of 25 and 30. Apparently, carrying a gun is a young man's game, because nearly all of the guns were taken from young men and the percentage was disproportionately black and Latino. How do the guns get to Rockaway's streets? Some are stolen from legitimate owners. Others are picked up in "easy gun" states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida and transported back to Rockaway, where they are sold from the trunk of a car. Cops can devise all the plans they want for ending gun violence in Rockaway, but nothing is going to change until there is a federal plan for controlling the sale of weapons.

Congressman Anthony Weiner has been the butt of jokes in the press recently when it was revealed that he is in a long-time romantic relationship with Hillary Clinton's assistant, a woman named Huma Abedin. Weiner, who never met a camera he didn't like, doesn't really want to talk much about his relationship with Abedin, who was born in Michigan and brought up in Saudi Arabia. One thing he did tell reporters was, "I'm certain that the relationship was not the product of a political calculation. Weiner, a bachelor, has been linked in the past to such women as model Alli Joseph and television reporter Gigi Stone. At one point, a magazine called him one of the "most eligible bachelors in Washington."

Speaking of politics, Brendan Brosh, a former Wave staffer who now writes for the Daily News, says that City Councilman James Sanders, who is term-limited and probably has no place to go in elected politics, is looking for a job with Barack Obama should the presidential candidate go all the way. Sanders was one of the first supporters of Obama and remains steadfast even though many other local politicians have backed his opponent, Hillary Clinton. "I would like to finish my term here, [but] if the nation called, I certainly would answer," Sanders told Brosh recently. Sanders has crisscrossed the nation campaigning for Obama and always is careful to have his "Obama 08" pin showing on his lapel when he does a press conference about violence in Rockaway, or on any other topic. We have to file this one under "You've got to be kidding."

Fines for all bus and subway violations will be going up shortly, some as much as double the present fine, officials say. The fines are for such offenses as smoking, littering, vandalism, blocking the flow of riders, graffiti, taking up two seats and anything else the MTA can think of. The penalty for blocking the flow of riders, for example, is reportedly going to $50 from the present $25. Most of the increased fines can be ordered by the MTAboard, but others will have to be approved by the state legislature.

There has been lots of controversy over the present testing paradigm that was instituted in our public schools by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. In fact, there are many who believe that the testing process has become the be-all and end-all for education in this city at the expense of real learning in such areas as science and social studies. Now come what some will see as proof of that contention. A UFT survey of about 1,800 elementary school teachers found that the majority of classrooms start preparing for the state and city Mathematics and English Language Arts standardized tests at least eight weeks prior to the test dates. During that time, they spend between five and twelve hours a week strictly on test prep. In addition, more than half of the teachers in the survey says that their students received two hours or less per week in science and social studies education.

Lifesaving patrols on city beaches, including Rockaway Beach, have been cut by Fire Department budget experts, officials say. The cuts mean that the beaches will lose specially-trained medical technicians, an EMS Union spokesperson said. In the past, there have been at least two EMT's available in each beach area, but that will no longer be true. This summer, the two ambulances already stationed in Rockaway will have to handle beach emergencies as well. The union says that lifeguards are well-trained for minor medical emergencies, but that EMT's are necessary for near-drowning events. FDNY officials say that there isn't enough work for dedicated ambulances and beach areas and that the past program was not cost-effective.

Where have all the parking signs gone? That is the question that Department of Transportation officials are asking of Broad Channel residents. It seems that all of the "No Parking Any Time" signs that were put up in the island community a few weeks ago have disappeared. DOT officials say that a similar thing happened years ago when they first put up the signs. Perhaps the DOT should have listened to the community in the first place and not wasted its money. Chances are, however, that the city agency did not learn its lesson and will try putting the signs up once again before the summer is over.

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